Category Archives: real estate

Protesting Your Property Taxes

Hello Austin area residents/home owners!

Earlier this week I sent out an email to all my past clients about disputing their property taxes.I decided to go ahead and post the same note on the blog, given that, it’s some really helpful information.

protesting taxes scales

Option 1:

Log onto our website and if you don’t have an account, create one. From there, try to search your neighborhood by name or better, draw a polygon on the map of your area and homes similar to yours. If you have already verified your email on our site you should be able to see accurate SOLD pricing. If not, click the link next to the sold box on the status tab to “unlock sold pricing.”

From there, you will hopefully gain enough evidence that when you are arguing your value you can write in the box your counter offer and explain why. (ie other similar homes sold for $__ and are much newer/larger/in better condition etc) If your home has any sort of defects the county says those are big items they take into account, so compare it to others.

As an FYI–they ask you to submit evidence after you hit submit on the counter, however I have discovered they will counter back your offer before you have submitted any evidence, so do not feel the need to do that as soon as you submit your counter.

Option 2:

If your appraised value went up, you might consider hiring a professional like Texas ProtaxFive Stone Tax or O’Connor Associates to help you protest your taxes. They only charge a percentage of the money you save and are experts at dealing with the County Tax Assessors.

{My friend works for Five Stone Tax and she did say if they don’t end up saving you money, it will cost you nothing (so you have nothing to lose by giving this a shot)!}

Option 3:

If you would prefer to protest your taxes on your own, you can use our Home Valuation Tool to get a rough estimate of your home’s current market value using this tool as well and recent nearby sales.  

Reach out if you would like help finding recent sales to support your tax protest hearing. Don’t delay, as the deadline to file your tax protest electronically is May 24th, and May 31st if filing by paper.

**Also,if you purchased last year and taxes are above what you actually paid–you can show your closing statement to get the assessed value down to purchase price, however, remember– Tx is a non-disclosure state so you do NOT have to show what you paid for your home**

And if this is your primary residence, don’t forget to file your homestead exemption!

Hope you found this little post helpful and best of luck!

 

Ashley Brinkman

2017 broker signature

Austin Real Estate Forecast 2017 (Recapped from Ted Jones)

Dr. Ted Jones is the Economist for Stewart Title. (Twitter Handle is @drTCJ)

He gives a great presentation and holds your attention and packed with a few funnies along the way. This morning I wanted to re-cap some of the things he discussed and presented on regarding the future of Austin’s Economy.

Despite the election, Ted started off with reminding of us two things:

1. Brexit was the first sign that things were already changing and

2. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.

No matter the outcome of the election, traditionally speaking, each election year, right before the election, things typically slow down due to market uncertainty–then they pick right back up (again, regardless if there’s a conservative  or dem in the white house, statistics usually demonstrate this).

Let’s start with Millenials (they are an important part of our Economy, especially here in ATX):

Things to Know: The top 3 Markets with Millenials are:

  • Charlotte 30%
  • Houston 17.4%
  • Austin, Tx 16.4%

76 Million Boomers, 83 million Millenials between 19-35 and 91 million Millenials between 16-35.

75% of Millenials polled say they can live without the call function on their cell phones, 76% prefer texting>talking and 19% never check their voice mail. (guilty a lil, right here).

The above statistic is funny to me. I don’t think of myself as a Millenial, but according to the year I was born, I am. But I will say I have traits from the generation before and after me combined.

{Fun fact: 70% of Millenials prefer shopping in store v. online, due to instant gratification/satisfaction. This is why company’s like Amazon are trying to speed delivery, do drone drops etc–Millenials want it NOW.}

HERE is a great little article on best housing markets FOR Millenials.

Now, let’s talk Non-Renewals/Dead on Arrival/Items already going away:

  • Mortgage insurance deductability
  • Mortgage debt forgiveness
  • Residential energy savings
  • Obama care (or some form of it)
  • Wind and Solar tax breaks

Soon to Happen Changes/Items in the works ??:

  • US has the highest corporate tax rate and we are one of the Top Developed Countries
  • Capital Gains tax cut
  • Middle class tax changes (some up and some down)
  • Carried Interest Elimination
  • US Overseas corporate profit repatriation
  • Corporate tax cut (35%–>15%)

{Fun fact: in 2000 Germany corp tax rate was around 42% in 2016 they are now at 15.8%. Did you know that every BMW x3,x4,x5,x6 was made in South Carolina due to the corp tax rate? It is the largest plant and they make BMW for worldwide-read more on that here.}

Things to note: Currently, and for the last several years leisure and hospitality spending is at a rate higher than job growth–which means a steady market, when we see a drop in leisure and spending is when we hit a recession.

Top States with Job Growth:

  • Florida
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • South Dakota
  • Georgia
  • California

Now let’s turn to the states at the bottom of this list (decline in job growth) and look at what they all have in common:

  • Alaska
  • Oklahoma
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Louisiana
  • Kansas

They are all Oil and Gas based economy (ok maybe not Kansas, but what’s going on in KS…not a lot). Note, Tx isn’t on this list.

Tx is around 1.77% for job growth, we fall in the top half of the list. “This is the best oil turn down Texas has ever seen.” Jones said. And when you look at the greater Austin area: our market survives from: Tech, Education, Healthcare…Which leads me to…

2016 Stock Market Trends:

  • 13% up for Dow Jones Industries
  • 9.5% S&P500
  • 7.5% Nasdaq Composite
  • 45.2% crude oil

Mega Themes for 2017:

  • More Jobs before the election than ever before in History
  • Retail boom is on a 14 yr run
  • Entry level home buyers are returning
  • High end housing is retracting
  • Commercial Sales
  • Inflation potential (ie UPS increased rates 4.9% 12.26.16)
  • 2016 Commercial Sales were at an all time high in Austin Tx, this is different (above average) than the National record, and Austin is only at a 4% vacancy rate.
  • Rent has been increasing about 5% year over year.
  • Oil most likely stay about the same around $60/barrell (saving the average driver about $550/yr)

2017 Positives and Concerns:

  • Return of ARMs and Second rate loans
  • Faltering high end residential sales
  • Retracting commercial sales (Austin a little different)
  • Inflation
  • Midwest Land value increasing
  • Oil sub $60/barrel

Jones also predicted mortgage interest rates ranging from 4.7%-5.3%, but a 5yr ARM starts at 3.5% currently, “people will just have to get creative.”

Toward the end of the presentation we touched base on Property Taxes (and how outrageous they are and heavily based on our education system–another issue itself on how we pay and grade our teachers and schools, but I will digress).

What did I gather overall from attending Ted Jones’ Economic Forecast? In Sum:

  • Austin will be strong and steady this year, especially for those already here with jobs, he predicts Austin, Seattle and San Jose will not have a declining luxury market, however our (the company I work for, Realty Austin) Broker, Jonathan Boatwright differs on this a little, when he was quoted in the Statesman last week (article HERE and he says the numbers don’t lie)
  • Due to affordability in Austin, people will start getting a little more creative with their loans–perhaps 7 and 10yr ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) for those who know they won’t be in a house for longer than that…these are for savvy, good credit buyers, wanting to get in their price point and save a quarter on the interest rate (the “scary” part is not knowing where rates will be in 7yrs)
  • Job growth is declining here in Austin (not by much, not rapidly, but it is becoming harder for those to find a job relocating here) Went from 5%-2%, so not by much, but slowing
  • We are NOT overbuilding. While it sometimes may seem like we are, we are still at 2.1mo of inventory. A balanced market is at 6mo of inventory and a seller’s market is usually around 4mo. So basically things are still pretty crazy here in Atx.
  • Will there be growth in 2017? Yes.
  • Will the Fed’s interest rate effect our market here in Austin? Not so much (they do correlate, but not impacted directly).

What’s Next? This is where I insert my plug. “If you are thinking of buying an investment property, leasing or selling your current place, buying your first home, selling a home…well get to it–call me.”

As always thanks for reading and I hope you found this re-cap informative!

-Ashley Brinkman

ashleybrinkman@realtyaustin.com-signature

 

Austin Real Estate Market Stats April 2015 v 2016: Where did Austin Increase 33%?!

Hello, hello!

It has been a while since I shared some market updates with you, so I was doing a little researching–and decided to share some interesting finds on the Austin market (for the month of April, 2016 in comparison to same time last year) as the market is really starting to stir up, school comes to an end & the busy Summer begins from home projects and vacations, to buying and selling.

Some areas have increased from last April as much as 33%, some down 5%, to find out more about which hoods, and where your next investment may need to be…read on.

“The market is hot!” Bet you haven’t heard that yet? (sarcasm).

As I am sure you have noticed: VALUES ARE UP! Taxes are up! Rents are up. Highrises are going up, and travel times are going up…and my clients who purchased only three years ago… Are movin’ on up.

jeffersons

All signs of a booming metro (according to Forbes, Jan 2016) show how much our housing market has increased–and this blog is more so about in what particular areas…

First–to understand what areas I will be referring to in the charts below-You must know the Austin MLS areas. You can choose a particular area to see the stats. I did not break them up by zip code, there are several zips in an MLS area.

Secondly, if you would like data specific to you, not listed in this blog-let me know- I can get it for you. All data comes from the Austin Board of Realtors, based on MLS data (which 99% of home sales are entered into).

Let’s look at Austin as a whole, first. All the Austin Board of Realtors area coverage (from Austin to Dripping Springs, Wimberly and Kyle to Georgetown, Taylor and Cedar Park for example):

 Greater Austin

Median

Average

 

Apr 2016

Apr 2015

% Change

Apr 2016

Apr 2015

% Change

List Price

$282,000 $269,900

+ 4.5%

$343,647 $336,725

+ 2.1%

Sold Price

$280,000 $265,000

+ 5.7%

$338,844 $330,111

+ 2.6%

Square Feet

1,958 1,957

+ 0.1%

2,132 2,141 -0.4%

LP/SF

$141 $133

+ 6.3%

$167 $160

+ 4.7%

SP/SF

$140 $131

+ 6.5%

$165 $157

+ 5.1%

SP/LP

99.7% 99.4%

+ 0.3%

99.0% 98.7%

+ 0.2%

DOM

12 11

+ 9.1%

45 44

+ 0.6%

Note above I bolded “as a whole.” Because when you are just looking at Austin in general, and not including the 5 MSAs surrounding Austin, the numbers are lower.

Now, let’s get down to the Austin core…yep DT (downtown).

skyline2

How were prices in April of this year compared to 2016? (Also note we have a few more high rises in the works to be built DT as well as more apartment complexes that are projected and just opened in the last year downtown.

                   Median Average
 DT AUSTIN Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $397,500 $434,500 - 8.5% $509,920 $682,700 - 25.3%
Sold Price $387,500 $430,000 - 9.9% $497,007 $654,846 - 24.1%
Square Feet 831 1059 - 21.6% 960 1171 - 18.0%
LP/SF $506 $450 + 12.5% $523 $543 - 3.7%
SP/SF $489 $435 + 12.2% $510 $526 - 3.0%
SP/LP 97.9% 98.0% - 0.2% 97.5% 97.4% + 0.1%
DOM 23 21 + 9.8% 42 53 - 21.3%

Yes, you did see a decrease that I highlighted on percentage changed for our average sales prices, BUT not to be alarmed-as the stats are only comparing downtown to one month vs “the big picture.” Downtown still increased year to year and the other important thing to note is that the square footage listed in April was smaller than that of April 2015, therefore it skews the numbers to look as if there was a decrease–when there is really no area in Austin that has dipped in sales values. And while all signs point to the market steadily increasing–timing could be off in comparison. For example, more people put their expensive condos on the market April 2015 v 2016, but there may be an influx of listings coming the next few months.

longcenterDTview

CHECK OUT VOLUME IN APRIL ACCORDING TO HOUSING PRICES FOR GREATER AUSTIN:

Price Range Quantity DOM Price Range Quantity DOM
$149,999 or under 207 46 $500,000- $549,999 90 48
$150,000- $199,999 424 26 $550,000- $599,999 60 53
$200,000- $249,999 517 29 $600,000- $699,999 94 73
$250,000- $299,999 425 49 $700,000- $799,999 52 56
$300,000- $349,999 312 46 $800,000- $899,999 28 41
$350,000- $399,999 260 51 $900,000- $999,999 25 53
$400,000- $449,999 176 71 $1,000,000 or over 47 67
$450,000- $499,999 138 53 Total: 2,855 45
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % change 2016 YTD 2015 YTD
Sold Listings 2,855 2,847 +0.3% 9,527 9,244 +3.1%
Volume $967,399,611 $939,825,174 +2.9% $3,141,290,016 $2,950,183,540 +6.5%

As I mentioned above, some of the decreases I am seeing in specific central Austin areas (downtown, clarksville, west lake etc.) more so have to do with scarcity of inventory and higher prices than lack of desirability. Some of these areas take very specific buyers; for example, the average sales price in charming Clarksville is $910k!

INVENTORY 1B Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % change 2016 YTD 2015 YTD
Sold Listings 24 28 -14.3% 69 94 -26.6%
Volume $11,928,174 $18,335,700 -34.9% $45,552,206 $58,488,050 -22.1%

Let’s talk about North Austin (aka: area 2n; aka 78758, 78753). With the growth of the Domain and many tech companies moving and expanding in North Austin, it is no wonder over one year’s time the average sales price has shot up 19.5%!

Area 2N April-16
Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $230,000 $199,900 + 15.1% $226,642 $187,470 + 20.9%
Sold Price $237,500 $206,390 + 15.1% $227,839 $190,629 + 19.5%
Square Feet 1425 1415 + 0.7% 1446 1363 + 6.1%
LP/SF $148 $131 + 12.7% $155 $135 + 14.8%
SP/SF $153 $138 + 10.8% $156 $137 + 13.8%
SP/LP 100.4% 100.7% - 0.3% 100.5% 101.3% - 0.8%
DOM 4 4 0.0% 33 10 + 229.2%

Click HERE to see the map breakout of areas. This is also the area I personally live in (what! what!) want to know more? Contact me!

domain growth

Let’s explore some more areas and evaluate home prices…read on…

When you head North east to the MLS area: NE (out toward Parmer and 290… near Samsung…and yes an old landfill) you have some new developments on the rise. If you are commuting to N. Austin, I think this can be a great buy for those who:

1. Solely want new construction (various builders and neighborhoods) at an affordable price and/or

2. As an investment–the area only has more acreage and room to grow with easy access to large companies, toll roads and highways and if staying E. not too bad of a commute into central Austin. Great for rental property or to live in, and hold.

Area NE
Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $225,000 $192,900 + 16.6% $239,439 $199,669 + 19.9%
Sold Price $226,021 $193,900 + 16.6% $237,895 $198,490 + 19.9%
Square Feet 1739 1928 - 9.8% 1876 1939 - 3.2%
LP/SF $134 $111 + 20.7% $131 $107 + 22.4%
SP/SF $134 $109 + 22.6% $130 $107 + 21.8%
SP/LP 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 99.6% 99.7% - 0.1%
DOM 6 5 + 20.0% 16 19 - 13.8%

Which neighborhoods and builders am I referring to exactly in NE Austin? Check out the homes in this area above: HERE. There are a lot of new neighborhoods (and some only a few years old, still growing in this area). This area mainly comprises 78754 and 78753 and extends East to Manor. Some of the neighborhoods are Bellingham Meadows. Enclave of the Springs, Walnut Creek Enclave, Stirling Bridge, Parkside at Harris Branch, Pioneer Crossing, Pioneer Crossing West. In price points ranging from the affordable starter home, $205k, only a few years old to brand new homes you can pick finishes etc. around $350k. (here’s an old blog on purchasing new construction HERE).

And how is East Austin (area 3, aka 78723) fairing in home sales? Well, there is no doubt about it, the development of Mueller has increased housing not only in the diverse and eclectic, new community (that is still developing), but the surrounding neighborhoods such as Windsor Park, The Grove, University Hills, Cherrywood and St. John’s have all seen an increase in sales due to Mueller.

There are plenty of homes built in the late 60’s, updated and renovated, but like many areas of Austin–tons of new (and not so “affordable” developments can be found…like, HERE)!

Median Average
 AREA 3 Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $375,000 $309,900 + 21.0% $371,796 $315,289 + 17.9%
Sold Price $372,500 $300,000 + 24.2% $370,279 $311,335 + 18.9%
Square Feet 1579 1508 + 4.7% 1593 1483 + 7.4%
LP/SF $244 $207 + 18.0% $238 $216 + 10.2%
SP/SF $244 $206 + 18.4% $238 $213 + 11.8%
SP/LP 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 99.7% 98.6% + 1.1%
DOM 8 11 - 31.8% 41 43 - 4.0%

Perhaps two of the hottest Austin areas are South of the river and East of 35 (78741 and 78744).

One area in particular, {in my opinion that is undervalued and coming around–great rental investment opportunities} I have been telling many people who want to invest in is: 78744..or aka Area 11 on the map, check out what homes you can find HERE.

Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $199,900 $190,303 + 5.0% $211,912 $174,797 + 21.2%
Sold Price $203,110 $186,393 + 9.0% $211,246 $172,907 + 22.2%
Square Feet 1313 1466 - 10.4% 1590 1545 + 2.9%
LP/SF $144 $120 + 20.0% $139 $116 + 20.2%
SP/SF $149 $120 + 25.1% $139 $114 + 21.4%
SP/LP 100.0% 99.4% + 0.5% 99.8% 99.2% + 0.6%
DOM 8 17 - 51.5% 30 59 - 48.7%

You can find everything from grandma’s house to new construction in this area, above, that’s for sure.

 

However, if you are willing to spend a bit more—and you heard the news of Oracle relocating to East Austin on 27 acres, East of DT, overlooking Lady Bird lake… then this may be the area for you, (but the cat is out of the bag on this area–as it has increased already since last year 33.2%). Holy moly…one of the largest increases of all the Austin areas. With the boardwalk completion, easy access to airport, DT, ACC campus and more, it is no wonder people are choosing to invest in this area.

Median Average
 Area 9 Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $242,450 $224,500 + 8.0% $251,058 $193,749 + 29.6%
Sold Price $242,750 $217,000 + 11.9% $253,746 $190,471 + 33.2%
Square Feet 1122 1245 - 9.9% 1233 1239 - 0.4%
LP/SF $206 $159 + 29.8% $209 $153 + 36.2%
SP/SF $206 $143 + 44.2% $210 $150 + 39.9%
SP/LP 100.0% 97.6% + 2.5% 100.4% 97.9% + 2.6%
DOM 5 20 - 75.0% 9 37 - 75.2%

 oracle campus(Artist’s drawing of Oracle campus above)

When evaluating the sold prices from April 2015 to 2016, here’s a few popular areas and if you’d like more specific info like I have above-feel free to contact me and I will send it over (it is just too much to put into one blog).

  • Round Rock East and Round Rock West had about a +4% change for April 2015 v2016 (RRW was a little less than RRE with all the growth out East of Austin, w toll roads etc)
  • Pflugerville experienced a +5.8%, average sales price under $230k, so quite affordable!
  • NW Hills and Great Hills in Austin jumped +13.5% w/ avg sales price around $544k
  • The 78745 (or area S of Ben White, N of Slaughter-ish area) is steadily increasing, +4.8%
  • 78703 (aka Clarksville or a very desirable central Austin location near DT) actually decreased -5.1%, yet the average sales price in this area for a home in April 2016: $910k
  • The UT area (78705, or campus better yet) decreased in April as well, -3.4% w/ avg sales price around $290k
  • While DT showed to be down-24.1% in Apr 2016 v 2015, it also decreased in listings volume by 36%, what does $510/sq ft buy you? Check it out…HERE.
  • Cedar Park is still growing quite a bit, with an increase of +9.7% and avg sales price at $317k where you can get on avg 2300sq ft too!
  • Northern part of Cedar Park & Leander, due to all the growth in N. Austin are at an average sales price of $280k and up +11.7% from 2015 (examples of homes/area HERE)
  • Hays County experienced the largest annual gain in home sales in April 2016, with single-family home sales jumping 17.8% year-over-year to 338 home sales.
  • Williamson County was the only county in the Austin-Round Rock MSA to experience a decline in home sales in April 2016, with single-family home sales dropping 5.1 percent year-over-year to 816 home sales.

While I didn’t touch much on affordability in this blog, it is still a large issue in our growing metro areas.

Housing affordability includes not only a home’s sale price, but the homeowner’s ability to continue to afford the home as property values rise from year to year. “The Austin Board of REALTORS® encourages homeowners to learn how their home is being appraised and all property tax exemptions they might qualify for. A Central Texas REALTOR® can help homeowners contest their assessment by identifying comparable properties and gathering the necessary background information to formulate an appeal.” -Aaron Farmer, ABOR President

Anyway, thank you for reading–I hope you found these charts helpful and if you have any questions about your specific area, market stats, neighborhood stats, school ratings, home values, etc, please do not hesitate to reach out! To read more about me and contact me click here.

Ashley Brinkman, ABR, GRI @ Realty Austin.

Filing Your Homestead Exemption: Austin, Tx and surrounding areas

Did you buy a home last year?

Do you want a tax break?

Good, here is what you need to do to get that tax break…

First-write down on your “to do” list: File Homestead Exemption

Secondly, actually take about 10 minutes to do it.

Isn’t it funny how the most mundane tasks get put off and shoved to the side? When you put that stamp and send it in (or fill it out online) you think, “oh that really wasn’t so bad, afterall, why did I wait so long to do it?” {still on my to do list by the way}

So, my Austin area peeps:

Below are the links to information on how to download the necessary forms to claim your exemption-based on what county you purchased your home in:

  • Travis County 
    Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 149012, Austin, TX 78714-9012
  • Williamson County or File Online
    Mailing Address: 625 FM 1460, Georgetown, TX 78626-8050
  • Hays County
    Mailing Address: 21001 IH 35 North, Kyle, Texas 78640
  • Bastrop County or Call 512-303-1930 ext. 22
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 578, Bastrop, TX 78602
  • Burnet County
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 908, Burnet, TX 78611-0908
  • Llano County
    Mailing Address: 103 E. Sandstone St., Llano, Texas 78643

As Austin and surrounding areas home pricing increases, so will taxes. Typically (yet not always) your tax value is a bit behind your actual appraised value of your home.

**Remember your tax value and assessed home value by your lender are two different things. And as some say– You want the taxing authority to think you live in a shack and your loan provider to think you live in a mansion (wink, wink)**

So at the start of the year, by April 1, you need to have your homestead exemption filed if you are currently living in the home you purchased the year prior.

EVALUATION PHASE:

Jan-late March is the evaluation phase. Around April you will get a letter in the mail with your tax appraised value if:

  • the appraised value of the property is greater than it was in the preceding year $1,000 or more;
  • the appraised value of the property is greater than the value rendered by the property owner; or
  • the property was not on the appraisal roll in the preceding year

EQUALIZATION PHASE: 

April through July for the most part–

After you get the letter in the mail, you may protest your taxes.

If you paid less for your home than what the taxing authorities are saying it is worth, it is fairly easy to get your taxes reduced by showing them your final closing statement.

**However!! Fun Fact: Texas is a Non-disclosure state! So let’s say after you close on your home you get a piece of paper in the mail, it looks official and it asks, “What did you pay for your home?” send this back in to us…You, as a Texas Resident do NOT have to report what you paid for the home.**

There are two hearings to arguing your taxes-an informal and a formal. Basically if you don’t get your way in the informal (which you can send in the piece of paper- ON TIME), you can request a formal. You present your comparable sold properties and explain your case as to why you should not be taxed as much as you were. (This is where I come in! As your/a realtor, I can try to help you find homes similar to yours and what they sold for to help your case).

DISCOVERY PHASE

And finally August through the end of the year is the discovery phase for the following year.

After the inquiry/protest season concludes, the appraisal process transitions to the data collection and analysis phase. During this time, appraisers may be seen throughout the County in neighborhoods and commercial areas as they are measuring new residential or commercial construction, reviewing and updating characteristics of existing construction and/or land parcels, and reviewing, updating, or adding inventory of present or new businesses. Yearly updated aerial imagery, digital field devices for data collection, and GIS analysis tools are utilized to assist in staff efficiency, and ensure proper valuations and equitable results during the assigned/limited time for this phase. This process requires collection and analysis of three types of data:

General data, which affect values on national, state/regional, or neighborhood levels.
Specific data, about the site and improvements of a property.
Comparative data, which regards recent sales, cost, and income information for similar properties.

If this is still all over your head, this chart may help explain and is where I got most the information above from (along with past experience): Here is a great Tax Calendar visual to explain.

When your tax bill comes due, depending how your loan is set up will depend on how you pay it. If your money is with an escrow account–meaning you make a payment to your lender that covers: PITI–> principal, interest, taxes,  (home owner’s) insurance. If the value of your home goes up, so will your payment, as your lender will try to “pad” your escrow account so you don’t end up owing more when your bill comes due. Some home loans allow you to make your payment online–and choose if you want to pay extra and if it goes toward your escrow account or principle, which is nice. Or if you don’t have an escrow account (not required for those who put down more than 20%) you can manage your taxes yourself and pay the bill as it comes due.

Hope some of that information helps and if any additional questions, feel free to drop me a line.

AshleyBrinkman@realtyaustin.com

As always, thanks for reading!

Austin by the Numbers

I went to a really interesting and fun meeting today with the Platinum Top 50 Finalists and Winners. It is nice to be in a room filled with successful people I look up to and can learn a lot from.

We floated around the tables and had 15minutes to discuss various Real Estate topics.

One round we were given 10 questions, “How well do you know Austin” …I was shocked, our table did not fair well, actually not many of us in the room did -how embarrassing, we are Realtors! (but I blame it on the numbers being very close to choose from, ha)

Below are some of the things I learned and wanted to share (and a few pop quiz questions for you as well)

Austin by the Numbers: General information on our parks, demographics and more…

  • In the Austin metro, 40% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 29% nationally, putting Austin in the top 10 among the largest Metros!! (Woohoo, go college!)

utcollegegraduation

  • Austin area households enjoy diverse options in education, including 29 public school districts, 17 charter schools and over 100 private schools

 

  • The Council for Community and Economic Research indicates that living cost in Austin are 6-7% BELOW the national average (in 2013…ha wonder if that has changed these past two years!)

 

  • The National Association of Realtors reports that the median home price in Austin was $222,900 in 2013 while the national median was $197,400

DSC_0174

Here is one for YOU! (don’t cheat!)

  1. According to the census metro Austin’s population grew to nearly ____ in 2013 and is expected to reach ____ by the year 2020.

A. 1.7 million/ 2.0 million

B. 1.8 million/2.2 million

C. 1.9 million/2.3 million

D. 2.0 million/2.6 million

  • In 2013 the median household income in Austin was $61,750 compared to $52,250 nationally
  • The Parks and Recreation Dept. operates 12 off leash areas for you to enjoy with your dog and 2 skate parks

bulldog

Another one for you:

lovesurprises

  1. City of Austin operates 50 public school facilities, which includes _____ neighborhood pools, 3 wading pools, ____ municipal pools, 11 splash plads, 1 rental facility and Barton Springs Pool

A. 20/ 14

B. 23/11

C.24/10

D. 28/6

(answers to quiz Qs at very bottom, don’t cheat)

  • Over 19% of all residents in Austin live in poverty–according to City of Austin’s annual (2014) Economic Development Report (this makes me sad, and is a hot item we talk about here in Austin)
  • 19% of Austinites are foreign born
  • The city of Austin owns 6 golf courses and one short practice course all focused on a great golf experience at an affordable price.

As always thanks for reading! wink, wink!

kristinwiigwink

Answers to the above quiz: 1.) C 2.) D *Did you get them correct?*

An Apology and A Thank You

This may be a silly comparison but something dawned on me today that I felt like writing about…

So, my friend and I are researching places to stay on Air BnB for our next trip to Vancouver.

vancouverVancouver above.

{Ahem-Don’t even get me started on some of the horrible real estate photos people actually post and expect people to stay in their spare rooms on Air BnB}

Anyway, we came across this sparking, clean, perfect location, dates available, have our own bathroom type of place with a similar-ish female (safety perk) and then…she had NO reviews. No one had stayed with her.

I emailed the friendly 30-something, nice looking girl and asked if she was new to Air BnB, because I noticed she had no reviews, however she had been verified.

airbnblogo(New AirBnB somewhat controversial logo)

She wrote back-“Yes I am new.”

My more weary friend was NOT excited that this was the girl’s only response to my message. She didn’t try to convince us to stay with her or beg of us to believe she is nice and trust worthy,  or she would be a fantastic host–she merely answered the question I asked. My friend was not thrilled. {Me–I am different, I am a little more trusting and naive, and more like-so what if she kills us, our trip will be fun…and who doesn’t trust a Canadian?!} I asked my friend if she wanted me to add her on Facebook and stalk her (totes normal, right?), but she made a good point–that people can put out on Facebook and reflect however they want to be anyway and she didn’t feel comfortable staying with someone with no reviews.

Now….this is very unrelated, yet related…As I was jogging today and thinking about our options in Vancouver it dawned on me–how are you supposed to trust someone if they never get a first chance?

It reminded me of my real estate days when I first began. {Not that I have twenty years of experience under my belt now or anything}. My same friend actually bought her first home from me. A one year-ish Real Estate agent who had only done leases, NEVER done a short sale, never sold a single family home (only condos at that time) and when I look back now and think of the mistakes I made, the questions I ask and the lack of professionals I had under my belt to refer her to I think:

I am sorry. I am sorry I couldn’t be the agent I am now to you back then.

sorry

Then I think:

THANK YOU.

thankyousTHANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GIVING ME THAT FIRST CHANCE!! Did her closing run as smoothly as it could of? Hello no. It was the last day of the month and the title person had the name of the bank wrong on EVERY. SINGLE. DOCUMENT. But I am so grateful for those past clients who took a chance on me. It was so hard starting off in the real estate world then seeing your friends buy homes left and right-and they didn’t pick you as their Realtor. There are a lot of Realtors in Austin Tx (last I heard 8,000)!! So of course someone is ALWAYS going to know a Realtor or two. I just want to thank the clients who almost knew more than me, but could see I was working so hard and I was busting my tail trying to show them properties, find them properties and answer all their questions. I want to thank the clients that knew I worked a second job in the evenings and would try to schedule showings during the day to fit my schedule. I just want to be thankful in general. Had it not been for all my previous mistakes, hiccups and let-downs I wouldn’t be where I am today. {oh and thank heavens for good mentors and brokers I could always go to. Shout out to Kent Redding-I call him my second dad, always so helpful, positive and a cheerleader}. It is so very important in any business (but especially one where you are your own boss) to have a mentor.

Now, I don’t do leasing as much any more these days, because I simply just cannot find the time, but you bet I try to refer them out to any hungry, hard working, (almost professional-because that comes with time) agent who is in the same boat I was in years ago (and that was during the worst time of the market). Anyway, that sums up my rant. Not saying you should trust open heart surgery with a year one medical student, but I think you understand where I am coming from.

Did I mention I have no reviews on Air BnB? I hope someone takes a chance on me letting me sleep in their spare room. ;)

That is all for now and thank you for reading. Now go give someone a chance!

Paying off Your Mortgage ASAP: Yes or No?

When I first got into real estate, I would sit across the table as my buyer signed all 3 million closing papers for their first home. There came that point where we would make a joke about the “no pay no stay” document and usually a comment of how great of an interest rate they got. (I got into real estate when the market was crappy and interest rates were in the 2% realm for some!!)

Another discussion that always popped up in regards to mortgage payments, taxes, insurance and interest was the “if you make two extra payments a year it knocks down about 7yrs of interest.”

So SHOULD YOU or SHOULD YOU NOT pay off that mortgage early? And should you take that money and invest it?

Here are some pros and cons to both, and perhaps you can figure what works best for you.

housemoneyWHY YOU SHOULD PAY OFF YOUR MORTGAGE QUICKLY:

1. Peace of Mind. Waking up everyday and knowing you own your home out right is a pretty good feeling, may take a while to get there, but it sure will be nice once the bank doesn’t own it.

2. Guaranteed investment return. Paying off that debt early is as if you are earning the interest you would have otherwise paid on it.

3. If you didn’t put 20% down, then you should definitely pay down your loan to the 80% loan to value ratio to avoid that monthly mortgage insurance premium–that will definitely save you money in the long run!

4. And for those of you who usually say you are going to do something….but then well, aren’t so great with the follow through. You may say “I am going to just make minimum payments, let this extra money snowball and invest it” but the ACTUAL chances of you actually doing that are slim to none. So perhaps you are only doing yourself a favor by paying down your mortgage because you wouldn’t have done something smart with the money anyway?

investvspaydownWHY YOU SHOULD NOT PAY OFF YOUR MORTGAGE QUICKLY:

1. If you bought your home at a time with a really great interest rate (or re-financed) the downside to paying off that mortgage is the opportunity cost. You could possibly be giving up investment returns that are better than your mortgage interest rates (you just have to do a little research).

2. And of course there is INFLATION! Consider it. Inflation erodes the value of the dollar. So basically your future mortgage payments will cost less than they do now and the money you are sending in won’t be worth much in terms of “real” buying power.

3. The other thing to factor in are the unfortunate “what if’s.” I would hate for any of this to happen. But if something bad does happen (job loss, crazy medical expenses), what can the bank take?–your home that they still own, right? That’s ok–because you still have a stockpile of money in accounts earning interest. If you had paid off that home that’s all you have, and in turn you will most likely need to sell it to get the money from it or pull an equity loan and borrow against it. HOWEVER if your money was earning 8% in an index fund or retirement account you may have the extra funds necessary to still live and maintain the lifestyle needed. Just a thought.

And a few cool links I thought may be helpful mortgage payoff calculator HERE.

And I also found this article/info graphic of best places to invest. Ummm, so glad I am in Tx (though this vouches for Houston mainly, it was still interesting).

Hope you found this little read interesting, I know it isn’t as exciting as my tips on online dating profiles, but I am busy these days and real estate consumes my mind! Thanks for reading.

-Ashley Brinkman
Realtor, ABR, GRI
Realty Austin
512.665.8787

 

 

 

I Own Scissors, but Don’t Cut My Own Hair: An Agent’s Insight to the Austin, Tx Seller’s Market

Hello there blog readers of mine! (All two of you).

I know you look forward to my blogs about my bad dates and theories of my generation and what not, but due to the non-existant dating life I am going to write about something that has been time consuming lately (and I am not complainin’): Real Estate! So stay with me on my rant and hopefully learn a little about this crazy market we are in.

Currently we are going into Summer Months in Austin Tx and yes, it is still a hot seller’s market, with low inventory, but here is what is just starting to baffle me as an agent….

Just because I own a pair of scissors doesn’t mean I try to cut my own hair (or other people for that matter). And just because I know how to run doesn’t mean I am capable of teaching someone how to train for a race–so why, oh why on Earth if you don’t have a Real Estate License would you try to sell your home on your own???

haircutter

Oh you want to save money?…I get it. Well know this–most people who do NOT use an agent to sell their home end up getting less for their home and it sits on the market longer. Not only that, but when you represent yourself you are more liable than ever before. Hello lawsuit!lawsuit

I just want to give this example because I think it is a good (smart) one. My broker calls me into his office to chat recently. Mind you, he has 20 something years of real estate under his belt AND he is a real estate attorney. He says, “Hey I am thinking about listing my house soon and I want you to come take a look and tell me what you think.” I responded puzzled, “Why are you asking me? You know your home and neighborhood and how to sell it.” And he responded with a very honest answer, “You know how sellers are-we always think our homes are worth more than what they actually are. I need an honest, professional opinion. Plus I have a few things I want you to tell me if you think I should paint, stage, where to put things etc.”–all that coming from someone IN the business. While some real estate agents do list their own homes (and in Tx you must disclose if you are affiliated with the selling party or the actual home owner) the last brokerage I worked for would not allow owner/agent relationship, you would sell it under someone else in the office–which is smart.

FSBOI know, I know–you think real estate agents just take some photos, move a few pieces of furniture and stick a sign in the yard and they are done with it. There is so much more to it than that (well for the good agents anyway)! And actually in this market, it is even more pertinent to have an agent with diligence, market knowledge, an agent great at marketing your home in non-traditional ways and has a “pre-marketing plan”, a proactive one that foresee road blocks (like buyer’s financing and appraisal or title issues).

Another example I recently encountered: I am representing a buyer on a duplex. We were in multiple offers. We won. A few weeks later–appraisal comes back higher than contract price! Yessss!! (Always a good feeling to walk in with equity). This listing agent is a discount broker. He didn’t use professional photos and I don’t think he even pre-marketed the duplex. Did we go under contract after only two days? Yes. But do you think if he would have marketed the home more professionally and tested the market price prior to putting it in the MLS he would have had higher offers on the table that would have matched what the appraiser said it was worth? Possibly. (Just a theory, but no way of actually knowing).

comingsoon

It makes me wonder, though: Does an agent do as good of a job when he/she is taking that big of a discount? And furthermore, if he is discounting himself does he:

1. Value himself as a professional or his time?

2. Is he so busy being a discount broker that he has time to market my home, others and take care of everything?

3. Can he even afford an assistant or professional photographer?

4. Does he even have experience?! Maybe he is cheap because he is new and doesn’t know what he’s doing!?

I am not going to lie, when I first got into this industry, you could have paid me $500 to list your home and I would have been ecstatic–and that was in a bad market!! But as time and experience have taught me: time is money. And my work is valuable.

I will say often to all my friends and clients that trusted in me with their real estate transactions in my wee-early real estate days I: 1. Appreciate you having faith in me and am grateful for your business!!! and 2. I Apologize because I know so much more now than I did then!!

Sadly, that SAME broker from the duplex deal had a sign in the yard of a home I recently met with the owner prior and told him EVERYTHING he should do to get his home ready to market (so he did that, then hired someone cheaper…sigh). So, yes people like to save money, but sometimes it is worth it to pay more, get more and have to do less if you ask me (and that goes with a lot of things in this world, huh?–like a pair of sunglasses, a good cutting knife or a car-for example). A home worth over $400,000 (that’s been owned for almost 10yrs) and the owner thinks it is smarter to save a few by hiring a discount broker. Yes, I am bitter! Don’t get me wrong, I have and still do discount my commission when appropriate to the situation, but I don’t advertise myself as the “1% girl” or “flat fee gal” Some brokerages don’t even allow agents to discount themselves unless it is their own transaction.  I know it is a seller’s market, but I keep seeing people get real greedy or maybe it is high optimism? In fact, last week there roughly 500 price reductions in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). That is A LOT of price drops. Maybe the market is cooling off? Highly doubtful. Perhaps the overly aggressive pricing is starting to correct itself.  Sometimes we agents have to stand behind our work and listen to the words of L’Oreal: “You’re Worth It.”

You’re darn right I am!

youreworthitIn this world of Wiki, Google, HGTV I guess we are all experts. And in a town of 7,000 real estate agents or something crazy like that, I guess there are a lot of people to choose from. Be smart out there folks, do your research, and shop: rates, agents, plumbers, insurance–everything–you will be glad you did in the end. And just because it is the lowest price DOES NOT mean you are getting the best value (think we all know this by learning a lesson one way or another).

htvfunnyYou can find more about Ashley by clicking here and you can start your Real Estate home search here! Realty Austin has fantastic agents to help you find a home, guide you in the process and a great support team to help market your properties to get them SOLD! Also voted Best Places to work in Austin three years in a row according to the Austin Business Journal!

What to Expect when Buying New Construction (in an Austin seller’s market)

Hello again!

I’ve had a few clients in the past few years buy new. Meaning from a home builder or custom builder or condo developer. And being that I now have gained some experience on “the other side” (meaning, representing new projects/the listing agent) I wanted to take some time to write a blog on what to expect when purchasing a new home (in a seller’s market). I add the parentheses because when the market is “bad” or a buyer’s market, builder’s are offering incentives, upgrades, decorating allowances, raffles for a new car. BUT in Austin Tx currently we are in a seller’s market, with this inventory being low, what can you expect as a buyer now that housing is in demand? Well..read on!

Since every builder contract is different (and none of them are the standard TREC <Texas Real Estate Commission> promulgated form) I am not going to go through the nitty gritty details, but basically give you a sum up of what to expect in that contract and when building a new home (or buying one from a builder that is a “spec” home). A spec home is a homet hat has already been started by the builder-lot, floorplan and decor already chosen. Most the time when you choose to use a builder to buy you pick the lot, floorplan and then go to a design center for upgrades etc.

(and use some real life examples!)

Below: Jordan at the closing table-yes, he sent me a selfie, because I couldn’t make closing! Bought his new place in Edgewick, stand alone condo with detached garage! soldJordan

This is a photo of Ashley, below-just closed on her home with Milsetone Builders off Riverside that was built from the ground up-with her input! That area has blown up, she is so happy she bought there when she did!

soldAshley

#1–A Builder’s contract will state that they are allowed to make changes to the property as they deem necessary.

This is important to know, because recently I had some clients (ok, pickier than normal clients) who were very angry that the developer said there would be 4 trees (according to the brochure) and there were only 3 actually planted. These things happen. Does a builder try to purposefully deceive a customer? Of course not, but often times what “they thought” would work, doesn’t once they cross that bridge.

cardinalln

#2–a Builder’s contract is going to cover THEIR butt, not yours. Basically it will state things (in legal jargon) like: the builders have up to xx amount of years to complete the project.

I have another client who was supposed to close in October, ok November, ok late December….well you get the idea, it is March 2014 and we are still not closed.  This definitely has put a cramp in her lifestyle (and wallet, as rent continues to increase-especially when you go month to month)

Now, does a developer or home builder purposefully try to deceit people or make unrealistic timelines? Absolutely not. Do they want to sell the homes as quickly as possible? Of course. But it happens quite often that inspections hold up, Texas has freeze days??, labor shortages, City inspection hold ups (again), permits expire (or they don’t really but some dummy in the office doesn’t know what he is doing) and so on and so forth. Delays are constant. I wish they weren’t, but I have NEVER had a builder complete in the amount of time they said they were originally going to finish a home in. I promise. I wish it wasn’t so, but just the way things go.

So the #1 characteristic you have to possess (in my opinion) going into a new build is PATIENCE. Projects always take longer than anticipated, possibly a few changes along the way. I have been telling my clients (in this busy seller’s market) it is easier to sign a six month lease while your home is being built and break it/sub lease it later in this hot renter market, than to continue to pay increased rent prices month to month.

#3 A Builder almost NEVER pays Title Policy.

If you have bought a home before, more often than not a seller will pay for the buyer’s title policy. Now, in this hot seller’s market, there have been times when I have advised buyer’s to pay for the title policy to have the edge over another offer, which has worked to our advantage. I have only seen a builder for a new home/project pay for a title policy (which usually equates to a little less than 1% of the purchase price) maybe twice. Have I tried to negotiate this almost every time? Of course! But the advantage a new home builder has is that his product is rare and if it is in a buyer’s price range and they REALLY like it, they will pay the title policy vs back out completely. In the times the seller has paid for a title policy, I will add– the buyer didn’t ask for any other concessions, appliances, had strong financing and was at the asking price. So there ya have it.

DSC_0048Above: finishes the buyer’s get to choose at a project I am listing (Towns on Cumberland)

#4 A Builder will have little to no incentives for you as a buyer.

I say rule #4 with the intent of someone understanding the current market state, especially in Central Austin. As housing becomes scarce, pricing has increased and incentives to get people to buy have decreased. Why? Because a builder doesn’t have to offer allowances and upgrades when his product is in demand. I am not saying it doesn’t happen at all, it does, but usually at the start of a project. Asking price is usually final unless a builder is at the tail end of his inventory and ready to close up the project.

Some examples: I had a buyer purchase from Pulte up in North Austin. If he signed by the end of the week he would receive $2000 extra in his upgrades. Done.

Another builder (and most builders, honestly) will have a preferred lender. Do you have to use this lender? No. But most likely the builder will have established a working relationship and the lender is already familiar with the project, the people and have solidified a routine to get the loan done. For using their preferred lender the builder will most likely pay title policy or offer some kind of closing costs paid for at the close of the loan, etc.

drwallSansoneProgress (this home finished months after it’s projected date–it happens).

finishedSansoneBut buyers are super happy with the finished project (couldn’t even fit the whole house in my wide angle lens): Teravista, Round Rock by Partners in Building

However, neighborhoods perhaps farther out in a VERY newly developing area that may take years to grow etc. could possibly be offering more incentives and bonuses for your extra long commute and factor incentives for you. The fact you will be living in a construction zone for the next few years–you deserve a few upgrades. There are pros, however to buying further out– If you can hang tight in this busy market, you will be happy with the equity you start to acquire in your new home. You need to make sure you want to be there for a while, though, because often times if someone tries to sell a year later the home is worth just as much as a new home down the street. Be sure you pay attention to “what is to come” and what “can’t” be put next to you, too!

I hope this blurb about what to expect doesn’t sound like a “crappy deal” or like I am being pessimistic. I consider myself a realist, ha. I also hate when I don’t fully explain to buyers what they may run into when buying a new project. This isn’t to discourage one of NOT buying new, but just educate one on how it can be different from purchasing from a seller. Buying new can be great! Modern finishes, the ONLY one that has lived in a place, your own finishes (tile, backsplash, flooring, constructed floorplan) all picked by you. A new community with like-minded people in an up and coming (or already established, hip) area. Do what is best for you, but know what you are getting into!

resizedSome buyers prefer to buy old charm and fix up (Heidi and Brian above)…

JT4And some prefer starting their family in a new home (Jennifer and Travis above).

But whatever you decide, be happy with your new home!

Start your home search here and register! Read more about Ashley here and how she can help you with your real estate needs!

Happy house hunting, let me know if I can be of help and as always, thanks for reading!

-Ashley

The Easy Life of Being a Real Estate Agent (or so you think?)

An Inside look at what being a real estate agent is all about (for me, anyway).

No, it’s not rocket science. I don’t work 80hrs a week like a lawyer, and I don’t save lives. But I wear a bunch of hats and it can be stressful, unstable, time consuming and plain exhausting. So, hear me out.

Randomly this week, the exact same day, actually, I got two messages from  facebook pals that wanted to have coffee with me and pick my brain about being in real estate. Over the past few months I have met several people who were referred or wanted to chat about getting into the business. If you follow my facebook, or my instagram, or you just know me–you will know that:

1. I am pretty honest and

2. I keep pretty busy! So I thought I would take the opportunity to write some pros and cons and an HONEST reflection of what being an agent is like, and possibly de-bunk a few myths.

1. Myth #1: Real Estate agents just roll in the dough. Some do, sure. They also most likely have been doing it for more than 5yrs or may sell luxury with bigger pay checks at closing. What you forget is HOW LONG and how much time, money and energy it takes to get to the point of “rolling in the dough” Just like with any start up business, real estate is like that. You start operating as a business.

rollinginmoney

The average real estate agent makes $5k their first year of real estate. Yep. Can you live off that? I can’t. I always tell people who want to get into real estate either–be prepared to have a second job (I waited tables nights and weekends when I first got into real estate and tried to be at the office in the day, on top of showing houses and leases on weekends etc). OR you better have at least a year of savings to live off and live frugal as you build your business.

Let’s break out the numbers a little, a brief example if you will: Your friend wants to buy a house (Yesss!) And they trust you to handle their transaction. After three months of looking you sell them a $300,00 house.

Great. $9,000 in your pocket right?

Wrong.

Let’s say your broker takes half because they give you an office and signs and a lockbox and marketing. There is also probably a transactional fee, franchise fee AND errors and omissions insurance. But for number’s sake we will keep it at half going to those items.

So now you have $4,500, right?

Wrong.

That isn’t taxed and you are self employed now, so take 20% of that and pay the IRS or put in an account to pay taxes quarterly. So now you have $3,600 right?

Wrong.

You have to always invest in yourself, they say on average about 10% should be for marketing, so $360 (which only pays for one mail out of post cards that tell everyone in that area you just sold a home) So there ya have it, three months of weekends and evenings showing houses, setting appts, using your gas, putting miles on your car for $3,200 in your pocket.

BUT don’t forget health care. There are no benefits when you are with a broker. There is no 401k matching like in the corporate world oh no, no, no. You basically have to become (or invest in) a CPA and financial planner because you are now running your life and finances like a small business, and perhaps some of you already do-which is great.

 

2. Myth #2: Real Estate Agents just stick a sign in the yard and take photos and boom it is sold, easy money.

Listings are not an easy item to obtain. They not only take knowing the right people, continuous marketing to specific areas, researching sold prices and activity, viewing houses in the area, setting up property tours etc. but someone is paying you to sell their home–Most likely their number one financial asset.  Let that sink in. That’s a scary thing when looking at the big picture. What if you price it too high and it sits forever? What if you price it too low and they needed more for it? What if you didn’t do your due diligence and cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s on the contract? Or forget to disclose something you were supposed to and now the new buyer is having issues…who will they come back to sue?

4502finley

When I first got into real estate I thought: “I know so many people, surely they will work with me.” Not the case. There are somewhere around 9,000 agents in Austin!! I have heard statistics that we have more licensed agents per capita than any other city (cat has been out of the bag on how hot Austin is for a while now). Growing a thick skin became part of the job. Finding out some of your best friends got married and bought houses through people they saw weekly at church or lived across the street from a Realtor was a tough, but realistic part of the business. I always thought well maybe I shouldn’t tell them I am still working my second job. I would think: “No one wants to work with an agent who has to have another job. Don’t they know I am busting my butt trying to make it in this business?!” Time. It all takes time, persistence, and experience. It is hard to get that first deal, but when you do (and mine was a $90,000 condo on the east side) it is such a good feeling, but the momentum must continue and the steps that lead to success are more than I care to go into right now, so I will spare the details.

Like most economic models, I would say 90% of the agents make 10% of the money and the top 10% of agents make 90% of the money.

For me, it isn’t about the money as much as it is about helping others. And it isn’t always the easiest, but if I can help them in some way–a referral, selling them their first home, walking them through the process, telling them where they should go eat–and if they are happy. I am happy.

happyclients stuarts

3. Myth #3: Real Estate agents make their own leisurely schedules and don’t even work 40hrs a week!

I will agree that some of the more successful agents possibly don’t work 40hrs a week, but that’s because at some point in time they put in 60+ a week and now pay salaries of 3 people working under them.  But being a real estate agent is much like any entrepreneur. And Austin is a city that is full of them. Any one you know that has a successful business didn’t get there by slacking off and watching Ellen every day and sleeping in. Definitely not. And once you get going in business you don’t really want to stop. (OK a few agents I know are totally content with a few deals a month, and don’t want to grow and expand their business–but it is rare).

I know I feed to this myth because I post facebook photos of me traveling to countries, US cities, going to concerts, making gift baskets for clients, grocery shopping in the middle of the day. Are all these fabulous items perks of making my own schedule: ABSOLUTELY.

WHAT YOU DO NOT SEE: I sometimes stay up until 2am on the MLS or brainstorming about business or getting caught up on an expense log or mileage (if you are a client reading this you probably know, because have received an email at 1am of a property you might like or a reminder of some sort). I have never been much of a morning person and find I “get in the zone” with little distraction and lack of cable, to where I can get things done late night (sadly).

latenightoncomputer

You also do not see me taking phone calls while on vacation, managing things when “shit hits the fan” constantly checking email. I have been on trips with friends where I get that “roll of the eyes” because I am on the phone, writing an offer, answering a question and not helping load the van for camping or enjoying the baby seal watching on the beach. It’s a balancing act- despite balance always being an idea, but not really ever achievable.  I also always have to make sure I have wifi wherever I book (and usually I take a little time to sit down and get work done and check in with clients etc while I am away). Can I hire an assistant? Sure. But the other issue with being your own boss is 1. No one does it like you do ;) and 2. You have to pay an asst.–so you better be at the level that you can afford to pay someone to help (one day….one day). This again takes TIME like with most successes in life.

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I try to remain  positive in life in general (sure I rant, ha see last blog post) but I also think of myself as a realist.  I try to depict positivity for my work life/ethic, and to be honest–it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. But who wants to work with an awful/negative person??

There are hiccups.

There are disappointments.

There are angry client emails frustrated with builders or lenders and taking it out on you.

There are legal items you have to be aware of or they can bite you in the butt and come close to being sued.

There are things you just flat out don’t know and beyond your scope of experience that take time or research, and finding someone who can help you help your clients can be a challenge. EVERYONE is busy.

So while my travel photos and happy client photos may seem all peaches–sometimes there was a dark, rocky road before we got to that point. If you are a people pleaser, it may not be the best career for you, because as I mentioned before–the skin has to grow pretty thick. We can waste a lot of time and energy pleasing others and bending over backward for them, when really they are never going to be happy anyway.

As a side note: My life looks pretty awesome because, well, it is– but it is just me. I have no kids to mother, no day care/school/clothing expenses…my mouth is the only one to feed. I have no husband to take care of or plan my schedule with. It is just me! I look up to successful agents that somehow manage 3 kids, still managing to cook for them, run the house, still make time to train for half marathons, run a business, take vacations and get it all done, it’s impressive and I hope to one day be at that level.

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I certainly didn’t cover all the bases and don’t want to bore (or scare) you with the nitty gritty details, but hopefully I provided enough insight and de-bunked a few myths of #realtorlife. Thanks for reading.